Bufflehead: Waterfowl Wednesday

One of the winter visitors in my area is the Bufflehead, a small sea duck. Today I saw a few of these energetic ducks in Cape May, so I wanted to feature them this week (a post about today’s Cape May trip is coming soon). Here are 5 interesting facts about Buffleheads.

  • Buffleheads are one of the smallest ducks, at 13.5 inches in length. Adult males have black backs, white bodies, dark heads, and a large white patch that circles around the back of the head. Although their head looks black from a distance, they have a glossy purple and green iridescence that shines in the light. Females and immature males are gray-brown with large white patches on their cheeks.
Male and female Buffleheads
  • Their genus name Bucephala, comes from the  Greek word “boukephalos”, meaning “bullheaded”. This name is used to describe the duck’s oddly bulbous heads.
  • Due to their small size, Buffleheads almost exclusively nest in Northern Flicker cavities and sometimes Pileated Woodpecker cavities. They may use the same nest site for many years.
Female Bufflehead (Image by DickDaniels via http://carolinabirds.org/)
  • Buffleheads are diving ducks. In order to dive they compress their plumage to squeeze out the air and plunge into the water. They keep their wings close to their bodies while diving. Sometimes they swallow their food, which is mainly crustaceans and aquatic invertebrates, while still underwater.
A diving male (Image via birdinginformation.com)
  • They are one of the few ducks that are monogamous, and may stay with their mate for many years.


Author: BirdNation

I am an avid birder, teacher, and nature lover. I primarily go birding in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but love to travel. I am currently a biology student with interests in conservation biology, ornithology, and environmental sciences. My dream is to go birding in all 50 states.

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